LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Favorite First Mission charged past Arabian Lion down the stretch for a half-length victory in Saturday’s $400,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, the final Kentucky Derby qualifier.
The biggest beneficiary might have been third-place Disarm, whose finish in the Grade 3 race earned six points for 46 total during qualifying season and a possible spot in the 149th Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt had 40 points off his runner-up finish to Kingsbarns in the Louisiana Derby on March 25 and just needed to finish on the board to move past four other horses with 45.
“It looks like he got enough points to go, so we have the option to go,” said Disarm’s owner, Ron Winchell. “We’ll see how he comes out of this race. We’ve always thought a mile and a quarter (of the Derby) would be fine for him.”
Disarm achieved that simple goal, albeit far behind 2-1 choice First Mission, who earned 20 points with his first graded stakes win and second in a row overall with a runner-up finish as a 3-year-old. The dark brown colt was among a five-horse group in front throughout the race and used space along the rail to charge past Arabian Lion over the final furlong.
First Mission’s impressive performance had Godolphin USA bloodstock director Michael Banahan thinking of entering the horse in the Preakness on May 20 at Pimlico in Baltimore, the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
“We were very hopeful and confident that if he showed the talent that we thought he had, we had a big, big chance,” Banahan said. “It’s exceptionally nice to see that happen, and especially the experience he needed to get, coming down (the stretch) in tight on the rail.”
With Luis Saez aboard, First Mission ran 1 1/16th mile in 1:43.74 and paid $6.38, $4 and $3.16.
Arabian Lion returned $5.14 and $3.52 for second, while Disarm was 4 1/4 lengths back and paid $2.96 to show.